A little something to kick off your weekend

If you haven’t seen this, take the 2 minutes to watch. You’ll be richer for the experience. No, really.

Synopsis (from thebreak.com): The ultimate vanity project, Tommy Wiseau directs Tommy Wiseau in a film written by Tommy Wiseau about the relationship issues of a dead-eyed Frankenstein. The production value is baffling and the performances are unintentionally hilarious. After initial audience reactions of ‘This is the funniest shizz ever. Seriously Brian, you gotta go see this pile.’, Wiseau began billing the film as a ‘quirky, black comedy’. Filmed over 8 months (!), the production went through at least four crews and a $6 million budget. Confused by the differences between 35mm film and HD video, Wiseau decided to shoot the film simultaneously on both with a rig that mounted both cameras on one head. If only it were also shot on IMAX, that way we could surround ourselves with terrible.

Mmmm. That sounds good. I’ll have that.

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Tying It All Together – Finding Satisfaction in Your Ending

Photo by Toby Adamson

I was over at Victoria Mixon’s blog this morning reading her post about making your novel unforgettable. The entire post is well done, but the thing that struck me most was this:

    Fuses

    This is the part pantsers love doing but rarely know they have to follow up on. You know what we call fuses that aren’t followed up on? Loose threads.

For Mixon, fuses are plot threads that are lit and burn through the story. But the writer must be careful:

    When you pants loose threads without knowing they’re supposed to be fuses, you get to the end of your novel. . .and it doesn’t end in all the fuses coming together to make an almighty explosion, but in you, personally, getting bored. Sadly, the writer is the last person who ever gets bored. Guess what that means?That’s right. All your readers have already died of boredom and turned up their toes long, long before you finally meandered into your ad-hoc, how-can-I-get-out-of-this? WTF-ever ending.

    That’s not a CLIMAX. That’s just a fizzle…

    …spend some lengthy, intense, brain-breaking hours figuring out exactly how all those wild ideas can come together in the most thrilling, wonderful CLIMAX ever, the reason your legions of future fans are going to love this novel and read it again and again and again.

There’s the rub. Bringing it all together is the hardest part. It’s those brain-breaking hours that make it all worthwhile, that provide not only satisfaction for your readers, but for you, the writer.

Robert McKee calls the Climax “far and away the most difficult scene to create: It’s the soul of the telling. If it doesn’t work, the story doesn’t work.”

I’m in the third act of my third draft. I like the overall story for the first time and I want to get the ending right (and written).  While washing dishes the other night a thought came to me, an Ah Hah! moment that helped tighten the weave of the story and bring more of those fuses together.

I doubt there’s one correct way of approaching the ending of a novel, but it would seem that time helps me the most. Taking time to play out several scenarios, time to make mistakes and time to let ideas percolate.

Recently read books that came to satisfying conclusions (for me) include The Windup Girl, The Anubis Gates, Finch and Anathem. Two novels that left me flat are The Difference Engine (ending seemed to be more entropic than anything) and Mainspring (deus ex machina, although that may have been the point. Lack of foreshadowing made it seem out of the blue).

Robert McKee again:

…if anything will draw blood from your forehead, it’s creation the climax of the last act–the pinnacle and concentration of all meaning and emotion, the fulfillment for which all else is preparation, the decisive center of audience satisfaction. If this scene fails, the story fails. If you fail to make the poetic leap to a brilliant culminating climax, all previous scenes, characters, dialogue, and description become an elaborate typing exercise.

And there it is.

What difficulties have you encountered while bringing your novel to a satisfying close? What tools helped you along the way?

Coffee Break No. 20 – Being William Gibson

I’ve seen a good bit of William Gibson in the press due to his newest novel, Zero History, hitting the stores on Sept. 7. I’ve read one of his novels and some of his short fiction. I’ve not read Neuromancer, but it’s on my list. Here is an interview with Gibson where he talks about where he gets ideas, where he lives, and having genuine 21st century material with which to work rather than having to make it up. Dig the coffee mugs on the table in front of Gibson.

Master your genre…After you figure out what it is

Genres are not static or rigid, but evolving and flexible, yet firm and stable enough to be identified and worked with... Robert McKee

Robert McKee, in his screenwriting book Story, challenges the writer to see where their work fits:

Each writer’s homework is first to identify his genre, then research its governing practices. And there’s no escaping these tasks. We’re all genre writers.

McKee’s suggests it’s the overarching genre that keeps us going, not the particular ideas:

So, in addition, ask: What’s my favorite genre? Then write in the genre you love. For although the passion for an idea or experience may wither, the love of the movies is forever. Genre should be a constant source of reinspiration. Every time you reread your script, it should excite you, for this is the kind of story, the kind of film you’d stand in the line in the rain to see. Do not write something because intellectual friends think it’s socially important. Do not write something you think will inspire critical praise in Film Quarterly. Be honest in your choice of genre, for of all the reasons for wanting to write, the only one that nurtures us through time is love of the work itself.

Chew on this nugget related to the Art Film:

The avant-garde notion of writing outside the genres is naive. No one writes in a vacuum. After thousands of years of storytelling no story is so different that it has no similarity to anything else ever written. The Art Film has become a traditional genre…a supra-genre that embraces other basic genres: Love Story, Political Drama, and the like.

Getting Stranger all the Time

From the Demons of Scott Eagle gallery at io9

Strangeness exists in every sidewalk crack, the corner of every eye.

Look to authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Thomas Ligotti, Robert E. Howard and Ambrose Bierce to get your dose of vintage strange. Or dive into China Mieville or Jeff VanderMeer for something a bit more contemporary. After reading this, you may find enough weirdness to keep you reading for a lifetime and then some. That’s not too bad is it?

End of the World? Check. All the weird books I could ever read? Check. Glasses?

It can be a problem if you don’t have all these guys at your fingertips, but there are other sources of strangeness that are much more accessible and take up less time. I like to think of them as a shot of strange espresso.

Music.

If any of you read this blog quasi-regularly, you know I’m a huge Tom Waits fan. If ever a man had a direct connection into the weird pipeline, it is he. Waits is a fan of irony, humor, and surprises. He also has a fantastic flair for mood. I listen to him often when I write.

There are some gems hidden in folk music as well.  Check out these lyrics from the old Irish ballad, Dreadful Wind and Rain:

It was early one morning in the month of May
Oh the wind and the rain
Two lovers went walking on a hot summer’s day
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

He said to the lady “won’t you marry me”
Oh the wind and the rain
“And my little wife you’ll always be”
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

Then he knocked her down and he kicked her around
Oh the wind and the rain
Then he knocked her down and he kicked her around
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

He hit her in the head with a battering ram
Oh the wind and the rain
He hit her in the head with a battering ram
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

He threw her in the river to drown
Oh the wind and the rain
He threw her in the river to drown
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

He watched her as she floated down
Oh the wind and the rain
He watched her as she floated down
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

She floated on down to the miller’s millstream
Oh the wind and the rain
He watched her as she floated down
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

The miller fished her out with a long fishing pole
Oh the wind and the rain
The miller fished her out with a long fishing pole
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

He made fiddle pegs of her long finger bones
Oh the wind and the rain
He made fiddle pegs of her long finger bones
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

He made a fiddle bow of her long curly hair
Oh the wind and the rain
He made a fiddle bow of her long curly hair
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

The only tune that fiddle would play, was
Oh the wind and the rain
The only tune that fiddle would play, was
A crying the dreadful wind and rain

There’s a high creep factor there.

Photos.

China Mieville has a penchant for observing the weird in everyday things. He posts photos over on his blog, rejectamentalist manifesto. Great stuff. Google Images is another way to see the world from another perspective. Just type in what you want and try not to get sucked down that rabbit hole.

Visual art (non-photo division).

Painting, graphic design, computer generated images or any combination of those things can provide a quick burst of bizarre. Check out this post over at io9 – No shortage of strange goodness there. Be sure to explore the galleries. So far, this and this are my faves.

I know weird isn’t for everyone, but if you can dig it, what are your favorite sources of strange?

*Please note that I use the terms strange, weird and bizarre interchangeably and strictly as descriptors.

Bonus video:

Jerry Garcia and David Grisman doing a slightly different version of Wind and Rain. You know, for those of you who just cannot get enough.

FWIW, the whole Grisman and Garcia Shady Grove CD is fantastic. Go get it. Now.

Mistake

Milk - and giving up reading - was a bad choice.

Have you ever made an effort to give up something with the idea that you would be better off?

A couple/few weeks ago I thought it would be a good idea to dial back my reading in order to make serious headway on my manuscript. I usually read at night for an hour or two before bed and I thought I could use that time for writing. In addition to my normal daily writing time.

Did your sacrifice ever wind up being not only not helpful, but actually detrimental to that thing you were trying to help in the first place?

It did for me.

Turns out I can only write so much in a day and still maintain consistent production (of some quality) over the course of a week. Finding that out was frustrating. Pile on top of that the frustration of not being into some book or another and there was one cranky dude wandering aimlessly around the house.

Once I got rid of him, I realized I was at serious loose ends without a book.

My thought is that I need that constant fuel of other writers’ work to feed my own (not directly, ideally). I use reading to keep my subconscious active, to spin off ideas, to provide grist for the mill.

And now I know. And, as a good friend once told me:

"Knowing is half the battle, young man."

I may deprive myself of other things in the name of writing, but I shall never again forsake the one thing that made me want to write in the first place.